I am so blessed that to have a life that can inspire and have an impact, when given the opportunity. I also know that there are many others out there that feel the same way about their life's journeys too. I hope that I am a single voice for many out in this world that are "different" in whatever way. Being "different" sometimes can have a negative connotation because others do not have a reference to understand or choose not to learn (and be ignorant). I think I was both before my spinal-cord injury, many years ago. My journey from February 18, 1990 (day of my paralysis) to now has had many ups and downs, but all have shaped who I am, what I believe and what I want my future to be. I am a good person (that makes mistakes, but hopefully learns from them), with a huge heart that wants to inspire, educate and leave a hand-print of change globally. I believe our past shapes our future and that we all have an impact on each other. We choose whether that impact is positive or negative. I would like to think my impact is 99% positive. I believe I have a gift, that was unwrapped as I triumphed in the face of much adversity. I have seen the impact that I can have and want more...much more. I want my future to be full of change, both that I create in others and that is created within me. I want my future to be helping out others (especially children) who may have difficult paths (whether self inflicted or not) and show them that there is a light at the end of their dark tunnel! I want to do this by example and not just words. It needs to be tangible, which is why anytime that I can be "present" and get "hands on" I do! Tangible experiences are powerful. I have seen a deaf student wear my Olympic medal as he came in first for his school's 5K (that he trained for because of wearing my Olympic medal during my speaking presentation at his school). I had a letter that stated it was my "time" spent with this girl and autobiography that stopped her from committing suicide. I have thousands of other examples of how others were inspired because of tangible experiences related to my presentations. I have recently had "decision makers" that "get it" and understand my impact, even though I am disabled and their students or audiences are not (although some may be). They trusted me that my message would translate and even be more powerful because of the tragedies that I have to overcome to accomplish my dreams. I understand that not everyone has a reference that will make "getting it" easy to understand, but I hope that they will take the time to learn (not just for my selfish reasons), but because there are many stories that need an audience and when given this audience lives will be inspired and changed forever! I have cried the tears. I have hugged the inspired. I have been the story and I have been the audience.